Thursday, March 25, 2010

New Years in March?

Florence's New Years day isn't celebrated on January 1st. Its on March 25th. They celebrate the Ascension of the Virgin rather than the fact that the Earth has made it's way around the sun. Go figure. Of course Florence would do that. Scorn the new year of Earth in favor of anything to do with the fucking Madonna. Florence hasn't realized yet that the Renaissance ended in the 1600s. I was quite excited when I got the e-mail from my school telling me that there was going to be a parade and open-air market, though. I hadn't yet celebrated any Italian holiday and I was really curious to learn how to get down Italian-style. Turns out Florentine festivals are Renaissance reincarnate, i.e. Florence is further behind the times than I thought.

I went with a friend to a Piazza where the parade was supposed to pass. I heard drums beating far off and felt rising inside me that familiar anticipation that comes when you know the parade is approaching. Through the crowd I saw flashes of bright colors-reds, whites, yellows, blues. I saw the first wave of marchers and whadda ya know, they're dressed in full Renaissance attire. Fully equipped with tights and feather plumes. The marchers were also all 80+; they got really into the spirit of antiquity with this parade. The outfits were as ridiculous as I hoped they would be. After five or six small groups of men dressed in different Renaissance costumes went by and a group of drummers and trumpeters passed, the parade was over. A solid minute worth of parade. I was so dumbfounded I forgot to be annoyed until later. REALLY? It was the single lamest parade I've ever been to in my life. My elementary school halloween parades were more enjoyable.

I left and went to the market where the parade was supposed to end. I've had some good experiences with Italian mercato's and I was excited to see what kind of things a celebratory one would have on sale. As I walked toward the tents what should tickle my nosebuds but that sweet, sweet odor of things being fried. A traditional Florentine snack, some sort of fried chip type sugary thing, was being fried at every single stand in the piazza. It wasn't as good as it smelled. Kind of bland. Italians have a gift with food, they really do, but I come from New Jersey and no place on Earth can fry something like on a boardwalk. I got my hands on some honey-roasted peanuts, though, which satisfied the need for something delicious immediately. I also had a cannoli. My first one since I've been here, and I wasn't impressed. The mercato was also a big disappointment. They had about a hundred stands with those fried chip things and the rest were random flea market type stands selling such items as cutting boards, used bras, and hand-crafted keychains.

My March New Years? A letdown.
Arrivederci, for now.
Love, Gabby

I Went to the Oofoozee, Dad

The Uffizi Gallery is the most confusing place in all of Florence to find. Maps of Florence are actually wonderfully accurate; I've found everything I've ever been searching for. Accept the Uffizi. I've wanted to go to the Uffizi since I arrived here. I promised myself I'd get the touristy things out of the way. A week went by and I still hadn't gone. Then two weeks. Then three. I was like a small child on a ton of aderrol dropped into a theme park with no parents in those first weeks. I went to a bar or club at least 5 out of the 7 days of the week. The Uffizi Gallery just didn't happen for me. I'd made plans two times to go with Buzzaro and both times I answered his wake-up phone calls sounding something like: "Mmmaarrgggghhhhhhhhhhhh". Nights that last til 5:30 in the morning never precede productive days. A month passed and I still needed to go the Uffizi. I mentioned it to a bunch of my friends a bunch of times and mostly everyone had already been there. I figured I would just go by myself. It was still the off-season. I just couldn't bring myself to ask anyone how, exactly, I was supposed to get there. I'd been living in Florence for weeks and I should have obviously known how to get to the Uffizi. Asking my friends where the Uffizi was would be the equivalent to asking them if they knew how to get to the Duomo. We make fun of people who ask us for directions to the Duomo, here (it actually happens more often than you'd think). I spent weeks trying to find the Uffizi. I would walk past the place where the map said the Uffizi was and where I thought it could be every day, but there were no signs. There was nothing to make the Uffizi stand out. I got more pissed off at myself with each day I didn't go. It is middle of March and I finally found it!

Turns out, the Uffizi's entrance is really not that hard to find. It's right next door to the Palazzo Vecchio. I walk past the Uffizi every single day. It took the coming of tourist-season for me to finally figure it out. The long line to get inside was the trigger that set off the bells in my head. I waited in that stupid line for over an hour, kicking myself for never realizing that the Uffizi was the gigantic fancy looking building next door to another gigantic fancy building with statues all around the outside. Dying my hair won't ever offer an escape from my blondeness. I was excited to finally be there, though, and being able to see paintings I've idolized as an art student was one of the most gratifying experiences of my life.

I'll admit that when I got there I was weirded out by the LACK of ornateness. The Uffizi was just a bunch of rooms with a bunch of paintings and sculptures. The whole place felt like it was falling apart-that is to say the Uffizi isn't very well-kept. It could use a good sweeping/mopping/dusting/re-painting. I understand the value of original paint. I'm reluctant to paint my car back home because its old and still has it's original paint. Seriously, though, the Uffizi needs to be re-painted. Like, bad. Original paint is not helping to maintain integrity in this case. For years I'd made the Uffizi into this grand place in my head and the simplicity of it was almost too much for me. I got over it, though. I was in the Uffizi Gallery, the most famous art gallery in the world. To get to the good stuff you've got to walk up a shit-ton of stairs, effectively stoking my anticipation.

I walked into a room with a bunch of portaits and a bunch of marble busts. I thought to myself Okay, this sucks before realizing I was looking at the busts of Roman Emperors and portraits of kings, queens, popes, and cardinals. Then I thought to myself Shit, I hope I don't start crying. When I was in seventh grade, I had the most incredible ancient history teacher ever. I learned all about those emperors and remembered more than I thought I ever could when I was looking at each bust. For instance, my favorite emperor EVER is Marcus Aurelius, hands down, and while I looked at his bust I couldn't help thinking about his Meditations. "Do not then consider life a thing of any value. For look at the immensity of time behind thee..." I memorized that quote in seventh grade for a presentation I did on the guy and I've never forgotten it. I was excited to see their faces. It dawned on me that this is exactly how these guys looked. I stared down 1,000 year old rulers. I cracked up when I saw Nero. The guy even looks like a total whacko. He had this really chubby boy face and I kept thinking about Dudley Dursley. I can only imagine the spoiled brat he was. That guy's temper tantrums = Rome on fire! The corridor had other things in it, too, like statues of mythological scenes, many I recognized and many I didn't. The very best thing I saw in the corridor was Laocoon and His Sons. This statue is a scene from the Illiad where this prophet Laocoon is gonna tell the Trojans that the Myceneans are in the horse but instead some god, I think maybe Posiedon, sends a bunch of serpents out of the sea to kill him and his sons. Its my favorite statue ever. I learned a long time ago the value in going to museums and seeing a piece in real life over seeing pictures. Seeing the original Laocoon and His Sons stirred in me the same proud feeling I had when I graduated high school. An important stepping stone of my life was completed.

The corridor is annoyingly confusing. There are rooms all along it but only certain areas where you can enter them. I got yelled at by Italian security guards (mostly middle-aged women with ugly hairdos) more than once. The first couple rooms I went through were all boring as hell. Portrait after portrait, crucifixion after crucifixtion, Madonna and Child after Madonna and Child, and not many of them were ones I could recognize. I was getting irriated because there were seventeen hundred tour-groups standing in front of all the paintings I wanted to look at. I was also irriated by the lack of information provided about the works. There was nothing curated; there were no accompanying facts or details about the pieces. It was just annoying. I like to really get to know the things I'm looking at when I'm in exhibits and you'd figure a place like the Uffizi Gallery would have a never ending supply of information to offer. I went through maybe twenty rooms without seeing many of my favorite works. At this point I'm thinking that perhaps the Uffizi wasn't all I'd thought it was. The Uffizi is a gallery I'd grown up thinking held artistic treasures innumberable and the only really incredible ones I'd seen were the Doni Tondo by Michelangelo, some Raphael's, and some Caravaggio's. There were other big names in there, Correggio and Fra Angelico, but none of their works that were particularly inspiring.

I knew, though, that there was a room full of Botticelli paintings and I absolutely had to see them before I left. Who knows when I'll be able to motivate myself to go there agian, seeing as it has taken me months to go in the first place. The Birth of Venus is and forever will be among the top ten most famous paintings of all time. If that was the only absolute masterpiece I was going to find, painting-wise, in the Uffizi, I was going to find it. I searched and searched, I went through every room and passageway, and I still could not find the Botticelli room. I sucked it up, finally, and approached one of the security guards. She seemed the nicest, smacking her gum and staring down all the visitors but kindly refraining from walking around brandishing her nitestick (sp?). "Scusa, signora, tu sai dove The Birth of Venus?" "Si, room ten. Is round the corner insyde the bige dowrs. You see if you walk paste". Okay. As if there aren't 25 different sets of big doors. I found room ten, though. Amazing. Absolutely, overwhelmingly amazing. The Birth of Venus is HUGE. It takes seeing the painting in person to realize how horribly disfigured poor Venus's feet are. I feel ya, Botticelli, feet suck! To the right of Venus is Spring, another gigantic Botticelli masterpiece. I started getting teary-eyed again and managed to spend a solid fifteen looking at these two paintings.

I reluctantly left the Titian room. I walked to the left and what should I find but all the lost Renaissance gold that I'd been looking for the whole time I'd been in the Uffizi. Cimabue, Giotto, more Raphael. Fianlly, paintings so famous I'd be a horrible art student not knowing them. I was in a daze of happiness; I probably looked like I was drunk with all the stumbling and gawking I was doing. I couldn't decide which paintings I wanted to look at first. I was in heaven, which I guess is what those Renaissance painters wanted to remind me about with their work. YOU SUCCEED, GUYS! YOUR WORKS ARE TIMELESS! I was satisfied. I'd been in the Uffizi for about two hours and decided it was time to go. On my way down and out I passed through what was perhaps another gallery. I have no idea. There were huge photos of construction workers fixing up famous Florentine buildings. I get it. Rennaissance artists built those structures without all the modern machines and materials we have. Why can't we do it their way? Old meets new kind of deal. It was just so bare that I didn't understand why, exactly, it was in the Uffizi. It was the only way out so I was forced to go through. I've pondered why they would put these really unremarkable pictures in the Uffizi and decided I don't care. The works in the Uffizi I went there to see were the ones I should care enough about to ponder. Not ugly pictures.

Daddy, I finally went to the Oofoozee (as he calls it because he still refuses to pronounce it right). I hope you're proud! Arrivederci, for now.
Love, Gabby

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Jazz Nights at Sei Divino

Sei Divino was voted Florence's best wine bar this year. I know this because I was invited to the celebration. Selvaggia, Casalinga, Poeta, Moda, Carino, a friend from South Africa, and myself all accompanied Divertimenti, the owner, to his award ceremony. It was held in a club called Yab in the Palazzo Strozzi one night. We were allowed to sit at a V.I.P table with free drinks for the whole night. I'll be the first one to admit that I felt like I was really awesome. It was very similar to the feeling of sitting with the popular kids during lunch. That night was a memorable one for me. Not just because I was sitting with the in crowd in Yab, a club in Florence that everyone says is the best and next to Babylon I agree 100%. Being a part of the Sei Divino award for excellence was special to me because Sei Divino is special to me.

Sei Divino is among my top 3 favorite places in Florence; I can't ever decide which is number 1. The three way tie is between the Piazza Signorina because I always love to visit my boyfriend, a trattoria close to the Santa Croce called Anita because they serve me enough food to feed ten people for only eight euro and its so good I'm sure its all been tossed down from Olympus, and Sei Divino. It may very well be that Sei Divino is in the lead. Perhaps its because I know the owner and I get free shots, maybe its because I robbed it once with Divertimenti, Selvaggia, and Poco, but its probably because I have more fun there than anywhere else in this town. I can count on Sei Divino to deliver me a good time, every time. The decor is very classy. There are about 7 million wine bottles, nice paintings and photographs, good seating, and a clean bathroom, all working together to create a relaxed environment. There is the one nutty picture of a face on the ground, black and white, reflected in a puddle but really weirdly. It always makes me think really intensely and I actually really enjoy that. They play great music, there is always dancing, and the aperitivo is better than at any other place in Florence. They have a Mexican night for shit's sake. Mmmmm. What's more, they host an 80s dance night. For my readers back home who know anything at all about me, they know that this one thing alone is enough to make me crazy about the place. The Sei Divino staff are all amazing, also. They dance, they sing, they mix drinks strong, and they're all friendlier than at any other bar.

Sei Divino's many wonderful traits are all shadowed by Thursday nights. Jazz night. Somehow Divertimenti got his hands on a local four-piece Jazz band who, every Thursday, have the bar packed full. I love them so much. Thursday Jazz nights have become a ritual for me. I've almost memorized the set list. They play some of my jazz favorites, Louie Prima and Ray Charles (with an Ital accent), and I'm always right there singing with them. They've got these signature Italian songs that they play and I wish I had a video. Next time I am there I will record them so be sure to check back for an updated account of why jazz nights are so fun. Anyway, jazz nights have done wonderful things for me. I've had my first lessons in salsa and tango. I've met wonderful people during jazz nights, many who've become great friends of mine. I can't explain exactly how much fun these nights are, but just imagine. The music is so much fun, honestly. The singer is really hot, too.

I'm sure in the future I'll have written more about Sei Divino, but for now, I hope you all understand that if you're ever in Florence you absolutely have to go to Sei Divino on Thursday night. Order a Long Island.
Arriverderci, for now.
Love, Gabby.

Meme the House-Ghost

Refer quickly to the My Creepy Building post before reading this. I've come to some conclusions with my roommates after posting that. MY BUILDING IS HAUNTED! Very, very, haunted. By Meme. We've given him/her (this ghost can change gender at will) this name for a reason so personal to all of us here in my apartment that I can't even write it on my blog. Meme is always around. She takes up residence in our room, but whenever he so chooses he'll go to other parts of the apartment building. Even now as I write about her, shes getting angry and banging on windows and making my doors move. He really enjoys spooking the hell out of me. Meme is a constant companion of room 35, even though she can move freely around the building. We've staked a claim on this ghost. We're planning on holding a seiance to try and figure out his deal because shes got us all on edge around here. All of my roommates and I (Selvaggia, Casalinga, Benny Lava, and Sway) and two other apartment building friends (Minuscuola ans Sculptor#1), have been talking about this for some time now and its at the point where I think a seiance is neccesary.

We know Meme is real. We started feeling like there was a "presence" shortly after moving into the apartment. Sometimes you can just feel these things. All of us attributed it, in the beggining, to the fact that we were living in a dusty, cold, Italian building far away from home and far away from modernity. Nerves were a little jumpy. But no, its a ghost. There are some really bad vibes going on in our apartment. We thought maybe it was the lack of lighting, since our lights constantly blow out, or the lack of space in our room. It can't be those things creating bad energy so strong. Sculptor#2 commented once to all of us that "This building has some bad residual energy. I can feel that, here". One day we were all sitting down at the kitchen table talking about the possibility of a ghost. Moda came over and we were all watching a movie when the subject got started. He thought we were all being silly and shot down our theories. Collectively, and with the help of Meme, we made a pretty convincing arguement. Selvaggia and I had our experience with the hallway-heel clicker at 5 a.m. and we explained the situation to Moda. Sway, too, had something similar happen INSIDE his apartment. The heels seemed to walk back and fourth throughout his room and he and his roommate both noticed the noise. They live on the top floor and the pacing was definitely not coming from below. Benny Lava was privy to doorslamming and window banging one night. The unnatural kind. Our doors are pretty heavy and when they lock, they remain locked. So are the windows. For both the doors and windows to seemingly burst open during the nighttime is crazy. We are not attributing this to drafts, no way. Its Meme. Sway also has this issue with this ticking noise he says gets really close to his ears. It happened to Benny Lava once, too. It doesn't go away and its impossible to find where the noise comes from. We're serious, readers. We're being haunted. We're telling Moda all of this and as he is rolling his eyes, not believing. Sway took a bathroom break and after coming out told all of us he just felt really weird in the bathroom. "I dunno," he said, after we questioned him why. "It just didn't feel right in there". A little while later Selvaggia went to the bathroom. "Holy shit, guys," she said, walking out. "While I was in there I swear something was pushing me out. It felt so strange and I was getting nervous. I'm standing up and then I feel this pressue on my back, pushing me out the door. I'm not joking, it was right on my lower back and it was a distinct pressure, moving me". Moda was still rolling his eyes at this point when what should happen but our closed front door should open, letting in the light from the hallway. It creeped it's way open wider and wider, all strange and eerie. I've mentioned in my older posts that the lights in this building go off after ten minues. The lights were on and no one uses our hallway. As our old heavy door creeks opened Moda looks at us, wide eyed, nodding his head. "You guys are totally haunted".

Meme does the normal things ghosts do, i.e. open doors, slam windows, breezes when there is no draft. Typical ghost shit. The thing about Meme is hes a really angry, desperate ghost who definitely has it out for the residents in our room. Sometimes other rooms, too, I'm sure. We started noticing the dangers of our apartment early on. We've got a perfectly level drying rack to dry our dishes on. Regardless of this, shit falls out pretty often. Its never plastic containers or spoons that fall out, though. Never anything harmless. Its always things that fall and shatter or knives that seem to shoot out of the drying rack directly at our faces. Benny Lava actually suffered a serious wound because Meme threw a glass at her, once. Sometimes the flames from the burners on our stove grow to alarming heights without our turning up the heat. Selvaggia almost got seriously electrocuted in one of our first days here from a blown light. The spark this bulb blew out was so big and so blue. Selvaggia jumped backwards and was too stunned to even say anything when it happened. There are other things, too. For instance, I'm convinced now that even though I do have wine dreams about Poeta standing at my bedside, somehow it's Meme manifesting herself in his likeness. I get this feeling, sometimes, that there is someone definitely there.

The real clincher on the ghost thing, for me, is the smell. I know, people don't associate ghosts with smells. I don't, really, either. But my apartment has this smell. This rotting, nasty, mouldy smell that has been here, permeating and festering since the day we moved in. We all commented on it after walking through the door. I'm preeeeeetty sure that its because the dead body of Meme is hidden in my walls.
Arrivederci, for now.
Love, Gabby.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Alice in Wonderland

I considered not coming to Italy because I wasn't going to be able to see Alice in Wonderland. I'd been looking forward to it for years and wasn't going to let a little thing like Italy stand in my way of seeing it. I did research, though, and found out that Italy frequently screens movies from the States. In English, too. So I came. When I got here I found out the dates and promised myself I'd be there. Selvaggia is actually a die-hard Alice in Wonderland fan and so she, too, prepared herself to see this movie. In the days before the movie came out we talked about Alice nonstop. We set times to make sure we'd get there and have seats, we watched trailors, we talked about how we'd each done Alice and Wonderland for halloween, we really exhausted the subject of Alice. This movie was landmark, though, for all of us Disney kids. Age group seventeen to twenty-five is the Disney generation. We experienced the best Disney films, and Alice is Wonderland was one of them. We all also grew up with Tim Burton. Most of us were undeniably out of our minds about the two fusing together. Tim Burton meets Disney. WOOO!

We went after school on a Wednesday night, 10 p.m., with Sway and Benny Lava. There is a theatre in Florence that screens American films about five or six times a month. The rest of the time they put on operas, ballets, or plays, and sometimes they host film festivals. The theatre is called Odeon and its in the Palazzo Strozzi, a ten minute walk from my apartment. Its all ritzed out and fancy, with a bar instead of a snack stand and some serious velvet roping. You're probably all thinking to yourselves the exact same thing I thought when I first saw that this movie theatre had a bar. Can I drink in there? Yes, in fact, I can. We got there a half an hour early and managed to land in the best seats in the theatre. The seats, by the way, are personal couches. It was the most comfortable movie theatre I've ever been to. I bought myself a Heinekin and a pack of Pringles. Perfect theatre snack.

The movie wasn't what I expected, sure. There wasn't enough trippy, mind-boggling, nutty shit. It probably would have had a better effect in 3-D, but still. The plot was too action-packed and skipped over some main Alice events. I still loved it, though. I absolutely adored the young Alice and think Tim should re-make the originial with her as the star. I was way freaked out by Helena Bonham Carter and her makeup. Johnny Depp is officially the best actor ever. Not my favorite, George Clooney is just impossible to top, but Depp can do any accent well. I wanted all of the costumes to hang in my closet and I enjoyed the fact that the Thin Man from Charlie's Angels was also the Thin Man in Alice in Wonderland. Tweedle-Dee and Tweedle-Dum: creepiest version of cute I've ever seen. I definitely recommend seeing this movie. My verdict: Tim and Disney need to give it another try; however, go and watch this movie. Just watch Disney's Alice in Wonderland, also, because the former is better than the latter. Maybe it's my sentimentality for Disney-kid movies, but I know how my opinion really matters to you all. Anyway, Arrivederci, for now.
Love, Gabby.

Monday, March 15, 2010

I really love The Diner

I read this quote of Khalil Gibran's the other day: "Is not the mountain far more awe-inspiring and clearly visible to one passing through the valley than to those who inhabit the mountain?" This quote stuck with me. I thought about it all day long after I read it. Its a quote that resonates with me, living so far away from home. The American mountain IS far more awe-inspiring when I view it from a distance. I love Italy so much. I've got such a connection with this place. Italy is magnificent and reaches a new level of breathtaking every day. The thing is, though, Italy isn't home. I'm homesick, and being homesick has made me really think about America and all the things about America I love. The list is pretty fucking long. I love my country. I came to Italy thinking "Thank God! I'm getting away!" and I know for sure when I get home I'm going to think "Thank God! I'm back!". I will always love Italy, but my home is where my heart is. Which is why I really love The Diner.

My readers back at home know how important diner food is. Diner food is the best food. Pork roll, cheese fries, burgers, shakes, pancakes, coffee. Mmm, mmm, mmm. Florence has capitalized on this, praise the good Lord. Five minutes from the Santa Croce and you're there. The Diner. An English fellow owns the place and this man is a genuis. Every Sunday from noon til four this place is packed to the rafters. You've actually got to wait to get a table! This is a serious abnormality for Florence. Its a shrine to America, honestly. You can trust that they will play The Beatles, The Doors, The Beach Boys, and other American classics, always. They've got photos of American icons on their walls. They've got paper placemats. The waitresses speak English. Their menu may not include pork roll (trademark: New Jersey), but they do have hash browns, milk shakes, chocolate chip pancakes, and coffee. They even have cream to put in it. I inject coffee into my veins at home, thats how much I love coffee. Espresso just doesn't make the grade. Its good, sure, but I'm a severe coffee addict. I sighed in relief when I heard about the existence of American coffee in Florence. THE DINER EVEN HAS CHEDDAR CHEESE! This is a food product you don't realize you enjoy so much until it doesn't exist in the country you're inhabiting.

The first time I went there it took me a solid twenty minutes to decide what I wanted. The menu looked so good. I ordered scrambled eggs, toast, hashbrowns, coffee, and orange juice. I need to explain what Italians do for breakfast so that you, reader, can understand how colossaly satisfying this was. The typical Italian breakfast includes a cornetto (crossaint) filled with nutella or marmelade, and a cappucino. Ew. They do little breakfast, big lunch. I like brunch. So I went to The Diner and I had myself a brunch. To have buttered toast, something so simple, was actually something so important to me I feel the need to mention it in my blog. I had orange juice, freshly squeezed, instead of the boxed watery sugary orange liquid they call orange juice at the Italian markets. I was hooked after that meal. I went again the next week. I got chocolate chip pancakes. I love pancakes so much. I ate every last bite on my plate. I smothered them in syrup, something Italians don't even know about yet. They don't have chocolate chips, either. Its all gourmet shredded chocolate. Seriously, Diner, you've really outdone yourself. The last time I went I said to the waitress "I'm going to be complicated and ask for something really American". "Okay," she said, "So a toasted bagel with egg and bacon on it, side of fries? Coffee, too?" Exactly. The Diner has got it down to a tee.

For students who will study abroad in the future and happen across this blog, you're new best friend is The Diner.
Arrivederci, for now.
Love, Gabby.

The Band-Aid Bandit

It started as a creative writing assignment and turned into a household game. He is a character Sway came up with for his class. Sway wanted to write a story about a father telling his son about this band-aid man who went around stealing people's band-aids. The Band-Aid Bandit. Sway got so into his idea that he illustrated this character and gave him a huge backround and history. He is a band-aid dressed like Zorro, with a little mustache and stick legs, drawn with pen on lined paper. The Band-Aid Bandit was created because the son in the story got a small cut one day. Months went by and the son refused to take off the band-aid. The father would go into the son's room every night and remove it for him only to find that the son had replaced the band-aid the next day. The son questioned the father about the dissappearence of his band-aids and the father's excuse was that the Band-Aid Bandit would come in the night and steal band-aids from little boys. Excellent idea for a short story, I think.

Anyway, the Band-Aid Bandit is my apartment's mascot and we have alot of fun playing the Band-Aid Bandit game. One day Sway put a piece of tape on him and hung him on our wall. A few days later the Band-Aid Bandit was lost, but found shortly after inside one of our cabinets. Every day or so the Band-Aid Bandit's location changes. Its like hide-and-seek, but instead of seeking we just notice the Band-Aid Bandit in his new spot. Whoever finds him gets to move him somewhere new. We've all gotten pretty inventive with the places we hide him. Once, I found the Band-Aid Bandit hanging from my shower curtains. Another time he was inside the microwave. He hides in plain sight, on the walls and doors, too. My favorite hiding place was one I chose, actually, and I was really proud of myself for thinking of it. I placed the Band-Aid Bandit inside one of our frying pans. Someone in our apartment had a fun surprise when they caught him hiding there! The Band-Aid Bandit is our apartment's yearlong version of Elf on the Shelf, and I think the Band-Aid Bandit is way cooler.
Arrivederci, for now.
Love, Gabby

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Regginella

I'm studying abroad. I'm in Italy exploring, discovering, experiencing, and seeing all of the things Florence is famous for and all of the things only those who live here could know. I'm getting to know the secrets of this town. Each of us who studies abroad here has found something or somwhere in this town that we think is really special. Whether it be a discount scarpe (shoe) store, a particularly beautiful street, or a cheap restaurant or wine bar, we’ve all got our own special spot. We feel connected to the place, like we know about something that others don’t. Somehow going to this spot once weekly, to a familiar place when we're living in a city where everything is fresh and new, creates an atmosphere around our special somwhere that makes it feel like it has something to offer that all of the others don't. I’ve got a lot of those places. I’ve gotten into the habit of dedicating myself to one gelateria and one gelateria only. Unless I’ve got an insatiable craving and my gelateria isn’t nearby, or unless all of my friends stop to get gelato somewhere else, I only go to one particular place around the corner from me. I get a cappucino in one tabacchi, generally speaking. I frequent the same nightclubs and bars (i.e. Sei Divino and Babilon). I get fresh fruit from one small market on the way to school every day and the man who works there knows my name. During school, I always go to the pizzeria down the street on my break and get myself a slice of Margherita. I’ve managed to find a lot of places in Florence that I love and just like every other study abroad student I feel pretty fucking cook when I go to those places and they know who I am.

There is a restaurant around the corner from me that has conquered the task of making into onto my special place list. Regginella is a quaint little Italian restaurant half a minute's walk from my apartment and it is truly a cookie-cutter, authentic Italian place. The menu features the same items I'd see on any Italian restaurant menu in Italy. I saw "in Italy" because the menu's in Italian restaurants in the United States are entirely different from the menu's here. I'll mention this a hundred times before I leave here, but alfredo sauce doesn't exist in Italy. Really. Somehow, though, it feels different to me to eat at Regginella than to eat at any of the other joints around Florence. The food is cheap, well-made, and quick; these are all qualities in a restaurant I value. That isn’t what makes this place so different, though. The house wine is also cheap and its of a relatively fine quality. Sure, I enjoy this in my restaurants, but cheap, good wine is something I can locate pretty much anywhere in Florence. This includes the post office. I have been to a post office here in Florence that has sold me cheap, good quality wine. I’ve done some serious restaurant shopping here and Regginella is one of the only restaurants that really stands out to me. Why? I decided I was really going to tackle this question because I want to understand what exactly makes Regginella such a favorite. It isn’t just me who loves the place in this manner, either. I’ve discovered that I’m not the only one that feels like Regginella is the place I want to go after a really long day at school. I frequent this place with my roommates Selvaggia, Benny Lava, and Sway, and I've gone here more than once with the boys Selvaggia and I are so close with. I've gone here with alot of my apartment builing freinds, too. Reflection on the place has become a must.

My conclusion is that the Regginella service is the ingredient that really brings the place together. I went there two times and they had already pegged me as a regular, taking time to get to know my face and my name. I live around the corner and they see me walk past when I’m on my way to pick up some groceries or drop my trash in the bins. Here in Italy the garbage service is made the responsibility of the residents. We have to take out our own trash and the nearest place to get rid of mine requires me to walk past Regginella. I'm always walking by in my sweatpants, unmatching, and the servers are never too embarrassed to shout “Gabby!” and call me over. They tell me about their day and to ask me to come by later in the evening. I look forward to walking past because all three of them have superb taste in music. I can expect to hear artists like Biggy, Billy Idol, and Beyonce when I go by.

There are three servers who work in this restaurant who’ve gotten to know me. I understand now that their amicability and liveliness will be something I go home remembering as a part of my trip that really made me feel like I was a local. They take the time out of their busy workday to stop me and ask me how I am and what I’m up to. They have conversations with me, they treat me like a friend, and they give me the scoop on different things going on they think I might enjoy. They recommend places they love and want to share with me and always sit down at my table for five or ten minutes at a time to enjoy my company. These three servers are the reason I go to Regginella at least twice weekly. Sure, Regginella makes a mean pizza, but so does everywhere else in Florence. The staff are what makes this little place really worth my time. They give my friends and I free wine every single time we go there because they really just like us. We're always invited to hang out in the restaurant longer than we should because they want to hang out with us. They give me hugs and kisses when I walk through the door. I've danced with one of them on the street. They say "Ciao" and wave and me every time I see them and it makes me feel really fucking cool in front of all the people they are serving. Regginella is honestly "my spot". I'M A REGULAR SOMEWHERE IN FLORENCE!
I'm henceforth recommending this place to all my study abroad friends who are reading this blog. I know there are at least a few :) Regginella is located on Via del Giglio in the Piazza Madonna del Aldobranini, literally two minutes away from the Duomo. Study abroad is about integrating yourself into the community of Florence and eating at Regginella has really succeeding in making me feel like I’ve done so. You should all go eat at Regginella and feel that way, too. My dish of choice? Calzone. So good!
Arrivederci, for now.
Love, Gabby.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Warehouse dancing

I don't normally expect for my nights to turn out the way they do. I never anticipate my nights escalating toward outrageousness so quickly. At home when I want to get wild I make a plan. I call up my friends and we let each other know what parties are happening or what places there are to be. We spend our day trying to score alcohol because we're all still too young to buy it ourselves. We call more friends and let them know where we're going to be so that everyone we want to participate, will participate. We set a time. We find each other rides. Its all part of a system, a process if you will, that gears me up to a night filled with revelry or gears me up for a total dud. I find myself caught off guard here by the rowdiness and recklessness I engage in. I don't plan it out. I don't call my friends and make sure they know the plan. It just happens. I find that often after nights that have just happened I wake up saying "What the fuck?" After recovering from a slight disorient I remember the details and I laugh. I walk into my kitchen and sit down, Selvaggia walks into the kitchen and sits down, and together the two of us crack up. I had a night that seemed to happen exactly this way last night.

"Gabby! Gabby!" Selvaggia is calling from the kitchen. "Girl you better be ready to go out tonight. Fresco found this awesome place about twenty minutes out of Florence. I think its live DJ's and house music. 5 euro." By this time it was already ten at night and I was thinking to myself that going to some random club in a town outside Florence twenty minutes away by car probably wasn't a good idea. "Okay, I'm in". House music and live DJ's sounded like my kind of night. A short few minutes later I was with Selvaggia, one of my apartment friends who I'm naming Minuscola, Fresco, one of the guys whose name will now be known as Tic,and Carino, pre-gaming at the boys. Fresco comes out of his room after looking up the directions and laid down our route. "Okay guys so heres the deal. We gotta get on one bus at 11:40 around the corner, the 17, which is gonna take us to another bus, the twenty-something, thats gonna get us to the venue. Well, its gets off a couple blocks away or something and then we'll have to walk from there. Place is open til 6 a.m. and the travel time should take about an hour, so figure we'll have five hours in the place. 5 hours of partying for 5 Euro? Pretty good". The rational part of my brain heard this and stuttered with itself trying to figure out how to get out of going. I'll admit, it sounded a little scary. I was thinking we honestly had no clue where the fuck we were going. I was weighing the odds of three girls and three guys' chances of survival if we found ourselves in SAW. I kept thinking of that movie Midnight Meat Train with Bradley Cooper (not a porno, I swear) and how awful it would be if we wound up on the bus-version in Florence. I was intimidated. But, I went anyway.

We wound up getting on the first bus no problem. And the second bus. My hesitation was fading. I was ready to listen to sweet house music and it was exciting to explore somewhere new outside of the city. Our bus stop finally came after almost exactly fourty minutes of travel time and when we got off my anxiety kicked in again full-swing. We were standing outside the Conad Superstore (Conad is an Italian supermarket) in the middle of nowhere and we had no idea which direction the place was in. We also knew that asking the passerby's where the place was would be useless; apparently the venue was inside a warehouse. Tic and Fresco went into a little bar and twenty minutes later we were in a cab. Headed in the wrong direction. Fresco took the lead in trying to explain to our driver where we needed to go but we wound up driving quite a ways before having to turn around. We all paid a few more euro for the trip, but the point is we got there. We made it, thank God, and I felt even sketchier and more nervous than when I got off the bus.

We were literally at a warehouse. Picture a warehouse, reader, just for a second. I showed up for a night of dancing to a big metal box, circled by broken glass and busted rubber tires. A gigantic Ethiopian body guard let me through their wire gate and another let me through their tin front door. There was a folding table set up as desk in the entrance and directly behind it was the first DJ and dance floor. It was super empty. "If this place is empty I'm going home," Carino said, walking up to another set of Ethiopian guards, gesticulating furiously hoping they would understand his questions. We bought tickets anyway and I am now a member of my second club: ASCI in a town called Sesto Fiorentino. It wound up being 10 Euro, and it was fucking awesome. It wound up crowded, too.

Let me tell you something about going to a warehouse rave. They leave gum and candies out on platters for people to take at their discretion; probably drugs. They have speakers set in locations for optimum sound and bass. They have light shows. They have makeshift bars and shady people working them. There are Ital stoner kids dancing the right way-that is to say there are people dancing in their own spaces, not grinding up on each other and knocking into the people in their radius'. There were no sweaty, greasy, smelly people brushing up against you. They wear regular clothes: sneakers, sweatshirts, t-shirts. The main DJ's are up on a stage, spinning fantastic shit and rocking out to it. And the music is LOUD! The people there were all a little shifty; you could tell most of them were on some drug or another. It was okay, though, because my comfort level in this back-alley warehouse was much higher than in any other club I've been to so far on this trip. I knew no one was going to be stealing from me, I could wear my coat comfortably and not have to worry about coat-check, the people were all friendly enough, and everyone was having a great time. I had a free drink, some super strong Italian spice drink made of Campari, Gin, and other things whose mixed result was absolute grossness. This is what it was like all night :
video-lights-

We all danced our fucking hearts out. We got really into the music. By the end of the night my eardrums felt like sticks of dynamite had blown up in them. We got as close to the speakers as we could and we danced for hours. We met some fun people, including an older guy, clearly drugged out, wearing all white. This man was a fucking trip. He would get into all our faces and just dance and smile, say "si si si si si si si" while patting us on the back, all sorts of weird shit. Some other people I wound up dancing around with told me I'd stumbled on the coolest place to hang in around Florence. I made it to where the real Florentine younger crowd hangs out. Insider report. I even spoke with one of the body guards for twenty minutes or so who told me I absolutely had to go to Africa. Apparently, Africa is the greatest place in the world. I'm going to have to go there and put the place to the test, I think. He was really nice and I enjoyed the fact that as intimidating as those body guards are, they can have a good time at the functions their working. I think I speak for all of us who went when I say that this night ranked among the best we've had since we've been here. If I can't speak for it, though, this video can:
video

Clearly, all of us were having a great time. The lights were on at this point and it was around 5 a.m. Time to go, but we just kept on dancing. For about a half an hour after the lights came on we all just stayed and danced. When the music stopped we shouted for more. It didn't happen, but I realized how much fun I was having because I was out of breath with how much screaming for more I was doing. We walked out of the building with the sun coming up. "You guys wanna get a cab?" Fresco asked. "Nah," was all of our reply. We walked about a mile and half before we found a bus stop. The walk was alot of fun, actually. We all talked about how awesome the night was, naturally, and joked around about hot dogs. We'd seen a hot dog stand opened which we found immensely funny. When we got to the stop we joked about this male modeling add for a clothing store here called Yamamay. The add featured two shaven, tan guys in speedos swinging from tree-branches in the jungle. We joked about their rugged beards and shaved arms in Australian accents, Selvaggia whacking the add with a stick and Fresco and I cracking mom jokes since Yamamay sounds like Your Mommy. We got on the bus at 6 a.m. and were home by 6:40. Impulsiveness = fucking awesomeness.
Arrivederci, for now.
Love, Gabby

The Human Condition

A museum. Finally. I visited the Palazzo Strozzi, a contemporary art museum here in Florence. Buzzaro and I went the other day and saw two really incredible exhibits. Back in Manhattan I was a frequent museum visitor. I managed to visit about twenty museums in six months. Thats a pretty darn good amount of culture to absorb. I averaged 3.25 museums per month. Its really difficult to make time during a school semester to get to a museum. I know my posts don't neccesarily reflect this, but students really don't have all that much free time. I'd say 3.25 is really quite an impressive number. I've been in Florence since January and it's already mid-March. It took me this long to get my ass to a museum. I'm grateful that I actually made the time because seeing those two exhibits was worth the ten euros I paid.

The museum is in the center of Florence about a five minute walk from my apartment in the San Lorenzo. I was waiting for Buzzaro and so decided to get myself a cappucino and cornetto con crema at this place called Gilli down the road. I'd been wanting to go there because they are a sweets shop and I really enjoy my sweets. I went and was really not impressed. The people were rude and the cornetto was actually kind of stale. I met with Buzzaro outside the Palazzo afterwards and we went to see the upstairs exhibit first. The featured artists were De Chirico, Magritte, Max Ernst, and Balthus and the theme was "A Look into the Invisible". The exhibit explored artists who toyed with the metaphysical. Basically these artists worked from the 20s-ish to the 40s-ish and used art to explore philosophies about such things as dreams, fears, and anxieties. These are all things that make up the metaphysical being. These artists really tried to use art to express those parts of humanity as real states of being rather than subjective thought patterns. The curator for the exhibit was brilliant, asking questions of those of us viewing the work and making me thinkg really hard. This curator helped me realize that a majority of the works were all about things I relate to in my everyday life alot, and thats a real feat of excellence. The curator also provided alot of information about the philosophies being addressed and challenged in the pieces, incorporating contemporaries like Sigmund Freud into the analysis. The exhibit really struck home with me. Read my post about wine dreaming and you will understand why all the works in the exhibit about dreaming really made me think hard about myself and my thoughts. Read my introduction and you will understand why the pieces about anxiety and fear really made me question my states of mind and being. This exhibit was one of the most personal exhibits I've ever been to and became one of my favorites almost immediately. It has made it into my top three, beating out the Dali exhibit I saw twice at the Moma to join the Tim Burton I saw at the Moma and the Edward Hopper I saw at the Whitney. To make it up there is a real accomplishment, so a big round of applause goes out to this exhibit.

Buzzaro and I were upstairs for about an hour. I felt a little like I was annoying him because I took the time to read each and every thing the curator had written. Sorry, Buzzaro! I enjoyed that curator so much I felt like I needed to. I was glad I did, too, because reading about the philosophies behind each of the pieces was really enriching. There was an artist who used his paintings to create an alter-ego for himself of this crazy mechanical monster things and it was totally sweet. If I did drugs I would totally do the same thing. Another artist made this really awesome abstract cityscape that was loads to fun to look at. One piece in particular, though, made some serious waves with my state of mind. The Human Condition, by Magritte, wasn't as abstracted or symbolically difficult to understand as the rest of the pieces and those are normally the ones that really resonate with me. It was an image of an image outside of a window, painted onto canvas sitting on an easel. It really got me thinking. I stood and stared at it for a really long time because it helped me come to grips with some feelings I'd been having about my life. I think alot about dying. Too much for my mental capacity to withstand most of the time. This painting really helped me understand how important it is not to think about things that keep me from living. I need to live in the image I am in, not outside of it. Artwork that can change a person is artwork worth mentioning, I think. There were more in that exhibit that really made impacts on my feelings about myself and my life, but this one was the one whose title I went home remembering. Being able to experience a change in myself like that was really something I'd been looking for here in Florence.

After we finished making our way through the upstairs we went to the downstairs. This section of the palace is called the Strozzina and here is where they put up their special exhibitions. It was an exhibit of the works of Gerhard Richter and contemporaries whose art explores the same ideas as his. It was an exhibit about reality and art and joining the two. There were videos of blurry images and photographs painted over to show manipulation of reality. Just the concept alone was creepy. Buzzaro and I watched it for a while, commenting on how insane we would go if we really let the video get into our heads. The exhibit really expressed the ideas of the subjective and the objective being different yet needing one another to exist. I appreciated it alot but it really creeped me out. There was a sculpture in there so massive it took up an entire room. It was made by Antony Gormley in 2009 and was titled Clearing V. It was the only one that truly stuck with me because it required the viewer to function as a part of the sculpture. Interaction with pieces like that really makes me appreciate the work of those artists. I recommend that all my readers try to see if the sculpture will ever be on tour nearby because it is absolutely worth it to see.

When we left that exhibit, Buzzaro and I made our way into the gift shop. There was a wonderful surprise in there. A contemporary Florentine artist had a small exhibit of her work in a white room to the right of the shop. She wrote a children's book following the story of Dante Alghieri's Inferno. Dante was a Florentine and his Inferno is allegory for Florence among the many other important things the poem explores. Dante is one of Florence's most precious attractions. The book was an illustration of the main scenes of the poem and it was really amazingly cool. Buzzaro and I were really excited to have seen and found the little place. Buzzaro actually bought the children's book that this woman had published. I'm thinking to go back and do the same. Go onto the Strozzi's website, readers, palazzostrozzi.org, and look this little book up. The illustrations are different and you definitely wont be expecting what you see. The book is a really fun, different take on one of the greatest epic poems of all time, and for those of you who love Dante as much as me the little thing provides an eerily cute new take on the story.

All in all, readers, my Strozzi visit was a huge success. Arrivederci, for now.
Love, Gabby

Frizzante

I LOATHE FRIZZANTE. I absolutely hate it. In Italy they have Naturale, the good water, and Frizzante. Naturale is regular, still, fresh, crisp, refreshing water. Frizzante is seltzer. It isn't even good seltzer, though. In restaurants they always ask if you want your water still or sparkling. I want my water still. In the markets they sell bottles of Frizzante mixed in with the bottles of Naturale. In the Tabacchi's its the same. It is really important that we Americans who can't stand Frizzante really study the bottles that we are picking up. It is honestly the easiest thing in the world to mix up the two. They don't distinguish between the two different kinds of water adequately here and it is really driving me insane. Water is my absolute favorite drink. I like water MORE than I like wine. That is unbelievable to even me. I drink water so much that I drink it while I'm sleeping. You can ask my mom. She knows how often I have dreams about water and actually need to drink it while I'm in bed sleeping.

My mom can also verify that I am more particular about my water than I am about anything else I consume. I cannot have any sodium in my water. If bottled water has even a speck of sodium in it (which is really popular in Italy) I refuse to drink it. My water needs to be H2O and H2O only. I actually hunt here in Italy for bottled water that is sodium free. My water also cannot have ice in it. Obviously this is because I feel like it takes my body longer to process ice cold water than just cold water. I realize that this is probably the stupidest thing and clearly this has nothing to do with anatomy or biological processes. I just like my water the perfect temperature. I don't expect you to relate to where I'm coming from here, reader, because I realize how completey irrational I am about my water consumption. I just hope that you can understand that Frizzante water is absolutely not something I can do. It has this nasty aftertaste because Italians haven't gotten carbonation right yet. I hate carbonated beverages for the most part, anyway. Dr. Pepper rocks, but only once a month. It is also not refreshing. It doesn't hit the spot for me. If I want a drink in the middle of the night, I want me some Naturale. I cannot get Naturale for free in Italy because Italian water is unsafe to drink. The whole aquaduct-lead system thing that made emperors go insane and light whole cities on fire still hasn't been sorted out yet. Italians buy their water bottled, for safety. I can't drink the tap. So I need to purchase my Naturale.

THE ABSOLUTE WORST THING IN THE WHOLE WORLD IS WHEN YOU MISTAKE A BOTTLE OF NATURALE FOR FRIZZANTE. This has happened a few times to me since I've been here. Italians packaging is really confusing here; they haven't really gotten this down, either. So sometimes a Frizzante bottle will say something like Aqua Minerale Naturale in big letters and Frizzante somewhere else. I'm pretty sure they do this because they want to make me suffer. I needed to post this tirade because I purchased at the supermarket six extra-large bottles of water for less than two euro. This was the best thing that has happened to me since I've been here. I was paying two euro just for one extra-large bottle for so long. I got home and opened a bottle and what should I hear but that familiar "fizzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz" that only a carbonated drink could make.
Arrivederci, for now.
Love, Gabby.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Messages from Led Zeppelin

The artistic capacity of the city of Florence amazes me. Every Monday I have painting class until 8:30 at night. I thought this was pretty sweet at first but I’m always irritated by the time class is over, now. As much as I love to paint, painting for six straight hours really sucks. I can handle painting for one or two hours at a time. Six straight hours of being frustrated at myself for not being able to channel my inner Michelangelo perfectly is too much for my brain to handle. Walking home has thus far been a miserable experience after this class because I'm always really pissed off. I’m always lugging along huge canvases and lots of paint so I can continue working on the paintings I hate at my apartment. On Tuesday nights I'm there til 8:30 again. As you all hopefully understand completely from my various posts about it I absolutely hate my drawing class. I wind up walking home twice as pissed off as I am on Mondays. I suck at drawing and have no patience to pretend I don't. Mondays and Tuesdays always suck when I walk home. Recently, though, my walks home have changed and I almost look forward to them. I took a new route home the other night, deciding that instead of taking the short route home I would take the scenic one. I walked through the Piazza Signorina where the David copy stands because I felt like seeing my boyfriend. He and I have been dating since my arrival in Florence. I normally hate going this way because it is crowded and for some reason smells like manure, but it was around 8:45 and freezing cold so I figured not alot of tourists would be brazen enough to stand out in the square. As I made my way up Via de Neri and into the square I heard music and my heart skipped a beat. I hear American music here all the time; Italians go nuts for the Black Eyed Peas. I'm an oldies girl, though, and a man was standing next to David playing a song on his guitar: Stairway to Heaven.
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I love hearing guitar all by itself and this man was playing a song by a band that most Italians don't really appreciate. He was standing underneath an overhang and somehow the music managed to carry all the way throughout the Piazza. For someone to be standing in one of the most famous Piazza’s in the world playing Led Zeppelin-a song so difficult to play that in the original Guitar Hero it was the last song to unlock-really turned my soul to gold. Yes, there are two paths you can go by, but in the long run there’s still time to change the road that you’re on. And it makes me wonder...why I changed my path that night?

Painting class left me exhausted on another night, as per the usual. I’ve been painting, drawing, and sculpting pretty much all day, every day, and I have to admit I'd been feeling a little bit tired of making art. Who says that? I’m in Florence learning and practicing something I love and I feel tired of it. These classes force me to work so hard and I feel like all the energy I contain has been drained from my brain and my body by the time Thursday comes. So after painting I again went to see my David. I needed some sweet boyfriend lovin' to cheer me up and he always poses so nicely for me before we really get into it. What should I hear as I approached the Piazza Signorina but the same musician, singing and playing away. “Working from seven to eleven every night really makes life a drag. I don’t think it’s right...” bounced off the walls and I was serenaded again by some more of this man’s sweet Led Zeppelin. The music, yet again, reverberated straight to my soul. How this one musician had the ability to play the exact right song during both of my walks home baffled me thoroughly. I decided after that walk that I was going to take that route every Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday night.

We have midterms coming up for all of my art classes and the theme the art department chose to have us work with is driving me a little insane. I tried so hard to come up with a good idea for my project; I was excited and announced it in front of my whole class. I thought it was spectacular and that everyone would be impressed. We have to create works based on the theme Timeframe. Boring. So I thought hard about this because I wanted to do something cool. I really like working with images from nature and energy in nature because I really fucking love trees, as my dedicated readers know already. My idea was to show how energy flows through nature. How does this relate to Timeframe? I felt so smart when I thought of this: energy is the only thing that transcends time. My teacher shut it down immediately. I was upset. So I sat in class and stared at my canvas because I simply couldn’t think of another idea that worked for me. I left class early and made my way towards the Signorina. I was super angry that I still hadn’t come up with an idea I could be happy with. The only idea I’d been happy with was the one that I had originally and I kept thinking that I should just go for it anyway. I needed to ask for Dave's advice. I figured I'd find answers in his unproportioned nakedness. I walked up the street scowling and yet again I heard a song that seemed to be sung just for me, wiping my ugly frown right off my face. “Sometimes I grow so tired but I know I’ve got one thing I’ve got to do... Ramble on! And now its time the time is now to sing my song.” I smiled and decided I would run with my original idea right then and there. This guitarist, who has clearly has an alarming Led Zeppelin addiction, is totally my soul mate. Sorry, Davey-poo, but this guy really gets me. I think we need to break up.
Arrivederci, for now.
Love, Gabby.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Praying with Monks

Living in the heart of Florence would be difficult for a person who is Jewish. If no other cities in the world produced art during the Renaissance the amount of Renaissance art from this town would have been a sufficient enough amount to still change art forever. For those of you not up on your art history, Renaissance art is mostly the New Testament (and some Old) made into pictures; even mythology, a totally seperate religion, was transformed to represent the Bible. The city of Florence is therefore deeply, deeply Christian. So religious, in fact, that Florence is known as the city of the Lily. For those of you not up on your Bible symbolism, Lilies are a symbol of Jesus and the Resurection. Jewish people would really be overwhelmed.

The biggest tourist attractions in Florence are churches: The Duomo, Santa Croce, the Orsanmichele, etc., etc. Writing etc. is actually appropriate because the list of Florentine churches is virtually endless. There is one, though, that is quite different from all of the others and therefore a seperate experience. After short hike over the Ponte Vecchio and past the Piazza dei San Michelangelo there lies a Medieval monastary. At 5:30 every weeknight the Monks that pray there allow the public to come in and tour their church, view their art, and listen to them chant. After they chant the public are allowed to stay for mass; the monks preach to their audience in Italian. The experience has become an important and integral part of the study abroad experience of those of us in Florence and so Selvaggia, Buzarro, Poeta, and myself set out on one of Florence's only beautiful days to chant with monks. The walk was sublime.

We crossed the Ponte Vecchio and wound our way up to the Piazza dei San Michelangelo. Walking up completely sober rather than driving up drunk and at top speeds offered a wonderful new perspective on the place. The sun was shining and the smell of spring was in the air. We were able to see some nature and trees which as you all know always helps to make my day. The paths we took were gorgeous, green, and well-worn, making me feel like I was strolling along on sacred grounds. We sat on a ledge and looked out at the hills of Tuscany that surround Florence and heard a sound we hadn't heard in a long time: birds. They were chirping and singing because they, like us, were coming alive in the sun. It was so peaceful and surreal that I felt myself getting more and more spiritual. Maybe it was because I was on my way to a church, but it was happening and it felt good. The Piazza is completely different in the morning than in the afternoon. Of course there weren't many people there at the un-Godly hour I was the first time I went there. This time, though, it was crowded with tourists (suprisingly sans Japanese) snapping cliche pictures and exclaiming loudly about the scenery. I've decided that David is my boyfriend and felt bad that he was being molested by all the people there taking pictures. Its relieving that at least one of my boyfriends, since there are 3 Davids, remains unblemished by touristy dumbness. Even though I'm not a local and still definitely an outsider here, I quickly came to consider myself at least two levels above the tourists.

We walked around and near the stairs that lead down to the path were two men. They were playing music together on the steps and a crowd had gathered on the stairs to listen. We joined them. How could we not when the music they were playing was country and blues? It was almost as if those guys were there playing just for us. Poeta and Buzarro are from Arkansas and Kentucky respectively and so the music hit particularly sweet notes for them. Sitting on those steps was one of the best moments of my life. I'm not kidding. I will never, ever, ever forget that, as long as I live. I was with three of the people who have become some of my greatest and best friends here in Florence. My soul was filled to the rafters with music I love. The sun was shining on my face and warming my heart, the breeze was blowing all my stress away, and I was breathing in air so clean and fresh my whole body felt renewed. It was heavenly. Poeta passed around his journal and allowed us to read some poetry he'd written just that morning. He doesn't know this, but reading his poetry is one of the best things I've done since I've been here. (I feel the need to mention that my roommate Casalinga just announced that somoene in Germany invented spray-on condoms. Hell yes!). Poeta reminds me that words are the one thing that have remained a constant love in my life and I'm grateful to him for that. His poetry is something I am going to go home and remember as an important ingredient for making my trip as amazing as it has been. Another ingredient is the alcohol. As we sat on those steps we all bought ourselves Heinekins. I'm not lying to you, readers, I sat in a public square in front of a large group of people and drank alcholic beverages. I'm still underage in America and that combined with public drinking makes me giddy. I'm slapping America across the face here in Italy and it feels great. We bought a bottle of wine, also, and the four of us sat and drank wine together out of small plastic dixie cups. Sheer bliss, truly. Something happened, then, that has managed to make the Piazza dei San Michelangelo my favorite spot in Italy. video

I was walking toward Davey with Selvaggia; we were meeting Carino because he called and was coming to join us. I smelt the most delicious smell-a smell I would be able to recognzie from 100,000 miles away. Peanuts. But not just any peanuts. Honey roasted peauts, the kind they sell on the corners at the Nuts-4-Nuts stands in Manhattan. My facial expression was definitely the same as the expression of a dog that sees a squirrel, and I was hunting. My nose led the way for me and I found myself staring down a vendor with love in my eyes. I bought a bag of honey roasted nuts for one Euro. It was the happiest one single Euro could ever make a person.I enjoyed my peanuts and walked to San Miniato.

Buzarro actually had some fun facts to share about the place on our way up. During the 1500s there was a war and Florence was being invaded. San Miniato was a considered sacred and was therefore safe from invasion but the monks at the time were worried that their church would suffer collateral damage from cannon balls. The monks retreated into prayer, as was their custom, and they appointed Michelangelo guard of their church. To protect it, Michelangelo got a whole bunch of straw mattresses and tied them all over the church. Picture this beautiful medieval monastary covered in straw mattresses with fucknng Michelangelo standing outside as a guard. Histerical. Walking into the church was exactly the same as walking into any other church. Cold, quiet, oppressive. It actually felt nice. For someone who used to be a frequent churchgoer it was a nice feeling. I blessed myself with holy water before I walked in and bowed to the alter. Remembering those small things made me feel really good about myself. I spent only a few minutes looking around at the artwork before I was overcome with the overwhelming need to pray. So I sat down in a pew and for a solid half hour I gave some serious thanks to God. I said thank you for everything: my friends, being in Florence, good classes, the places I've seen, the things I've done, the discoveries I've made, everything. I went through the list and said thank you for every single thing. I've been thankful and grateful for all the things I've been doing here in Florence but in that moment I really understood how blessed I am to be here. I sat in the pew until the monks started to come out. They were wearing all white robes where I had expected brown, they wore sneakers where I expected leather sandals, and they were draped in purple reminding me that I'm halfway through lent and I haven't given anything up. I've only been blessed with more new and wonderful things than I could have ever hoped for. I suppose the fact that in Italy there is no ketchup or Cheese Its will suffice as something I've given up. The monks even reminded me that its almost Easter, something I'd forgotten here in Italy. I have no Wal-Mart here to remind me what holidays are on their way. I was really happy that I remembered.

When the monks started to chant I really started feeling spiritual. It was a truly amazing thing to hear. There were only about seven of them but their voices filled the whole entire church, and San Miniato isn't very small. I felt uplifted every time their voices rose together. I was honestly having a really personal moment there in that church. After they chanted, mass began. I was so proud of myself for remembering the things I did about mass. I wasn't able to recognize very much of the sermon but I was able to understand when they started to say the Hail Mary and Our Father and also able to understand when they were saying Lord, hear our prayers. I left San Miniato free of sin and enlightened. It was beautiful when we walked outside. The sun was setting and we had a perfect view of the pink and purple horizon. It was frigid, sure, and we were all cold from being inside the cold church, but it didn't matter because our hearts were warm and our souls on fire.
Arrivederci, for now. Love, Gabby.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Teacher Evaluations

So I've been in school now for nearly a month; four weeks deep into my fifteen week semester! Where I was once excited about a schedule that seemed so free, I hate it now. I've got work that seems never ending, I cannot ever eat dinner at a reasonable hour, my classes last too long, complaint, complaint, complaint. I've really gotten into school, though. I like my school. The time I've spent in school has seemed to pass at a pace too fast to measure. I've managed to get to know some of my teachers pretty well. I've decided I'm evaluating them monthly too see how my feelings towards them change over time. This is my second evaluation, having written my initial feelings down in February, and I'm realizing that I've developed strangely different opinions on my teachers in a very short time.

My only class on Mondays is Intermediate Painting and it lasts until 8:30. By the time I get home my brain feels like mush and I'm starved. I wrote originally that I thought my painting teacher was a snob, but she totally isn't. She is just of a certain opinion about art and how it should be done. She has assigned a course load so heavy that sometimes I really feel like I'm going to go home having painted enough to fill my own gallery. We've been in class for only four weeks and already we've had assigned five works and two papers. My professor and I have talked alot about my painting and she has definitely given me some sound advice on how I should be developing my works. She hasn't really taught as much technique as I'd have liked, though, and this bothers me. I like her alot because she is one of two professors who has brought in a food item to share with the class. She brought us cookies one night and for that she gets alot of brownie points. She thinks my pieces are boring, though, and has told me I need to stop getting so personal with my works. "Simpler!" she insists. I've also only painted things that have had to do with nature and she wants to me move away from that, also. Impossible to please, I think.

I loved my drawing professor, at first. She seemed sweet and fun and spunky. This opinion has changed to considering her mostly irritating. Her course load is also crazy heavy, including readings and sketching and a huge midterm project. UGH! She is really crazy about our homework being done precisely as she stated in the syllabus but managed to create the most confusing syllabus and schedule in history. We have nude models in her class, every class, and my reader you KNOW how difficult nude models are for me. We had a nude model the other day, a skinny older woman, who posed at an angle that allowed me to see the toilet paper stuck in her butt. I left that class less of a human. I've grown to dread her class. Nude models combined with the fact that I absolutely suck at drawing equals a miserable Gab. I also think my teacher may be dating my T.A. boyfriend-a serious infraction against me. The worst part is I have this class on Tuesdays for six hours after sitting through an hour and 1/2 of dreadful Italian. Tuesdays are my least favorite day, hands down. My teacher appreiates my tastes in music, though, and thats cool with me.

My Italian professor, though I like alot. Of all my professors her English is the worst which seems kind of dumb to me. You'd figure the teacher whose job it was to teach me another language would be able to speak my language pretty fluently. That is really my only complaint about her. She has realized that I can speak Italian a little better then the rest of the class and knows how much it kills me to have to sit through such a simple review. She has gone out of her way to help me get a better education and has given me work seperate from the rest of the class so that I can learn at least a little bit. She speaks to me in Italian and it makes me feel special and cool cause I'm the only student she does it to.

Travel Writing is still my favorite class, far and away. The work for this class doesn't stress me out and I always look forward to doing it. Alot of the things I post on my blog are things I use for my class :) I cheat. My teacher is exactly as good as I expected her to be when I first met her. I'm learning alot about the history of travel writing and this is something I appreciate alot. The course is inspiring me to want to travel more, write more, and really pursue the idea of becoming a travel writer. I don't want to do anything but have odd jobs in new places for a couple of months before moving on to someplace new. I'll write about my experiences on blogs and in journals and I'll sketch things I see (but not well). Eventually I'll publish these things and hopefully someone will want to read them before I die. If I make money from it, sweet, if not, also sweet. My future is bright even though I have no goals but to see the world. Simple living, and damn I'll do it well. I'm more satisfied with this class than with any of the others because it makes me feel inspired to live exactly this life. This teacher also brought in a food item. It was bread and not nearly as satisfying as cookies but I always appreciate teachers that go the extra mile. We were made to write a haiku about the bread after tasting a piece. Here's mine:
Tasteless. Boring. Flat.
It really needs some butter,
Or, perhaps, SALT!

Florentines don't put salt in their bread. It's a really big problem. Anyway, I'm looking forward to the rest of the things I'll have to write for that class.

Sculpture is fun. I play with ceramics and get super creative, listen to music and work with my hands. The best part about the class though is my professor. I'm still in love with him 100%. He T.A.'s for both Drawing and Painting and those are the parts of those classes I look forward to most. I've discovered alot about him: he plays guiatar (blues and classical, my two favorites), he is a professional sculptor, and he lives on the same street as me. I'm not stalking him, this was all information he provided without any questioning from me! He jokes around with me all the time (alot of his jokes have to do with cake, for some reason) and he spends time looking through my iTunes and suggesting good music for me. I enjoy his class mostly for the company, but it is definitely fun to explore a new art form. The thing about him though is I've been steadily falling for him harder and harder. He doesn't know it, but he is having a love affair with me. I'll be extremely upset if he is dating my Drawing professor. My flame for him only increased in intensity when one night I went to Babilon. I'm dancing and getting into the music with Selvaggia and Buzarro when I turn and am face to face with him. My smile split my face. I could make my move. "Ciao!" I said, and he said ciao back. I turned to Selvaggia, who knows all about my affections for him, and told her he was there. She encouraged me to be forward and let myself be known and I was ready to do so when suddenly I was afflicted with a case of shy so profound I couldn't form words. He started talking to me, though, and we danced briefly. His friends started chanting his name, though, and I think he got shy then because he smiled at me awkwardly and excused himself. Maybe he was concerned that he was going to offend his girlfriend. God, I hope she isn't his girlfriend. I've become seriously infatuated with him. Sometimes when Selvaggia and I are walking home from our nights out (which is basically every single night) I secretly hope he'll be walking home, too. I can see him on the street we share and convince him to love me.

Well, this is how I feel about my teachers in the month of March. I'd say I can't wait to see how these feelings change in April, but I actually really want my time here to stop going by so quickly.